The Gainesville boys powerlifting team had its season cut short before it could participate in the state meet.
Seven lifters medaled at the regional meet and the team finished second overall. Three players qualified for the state meet including Yovanni Juarez, Gavin Emerson and Dwayne Wilson.
Gainesville strength conditioning coordinator Kenneth Wilkerson said it’s a shame the season will potentially end before the state meet.
“I really hope that we do have the opportunity to finish the season for the girls and the boys and for the seniors that have worked so hard to achieve this opportunity,” Wilkerson said. “It will be very disappointing if they can’t finish. One saving grace for us is we did get to finish with our regional meet. The girls and boys did experience success at the last meet of the year and that gives me some solace that they were able to compete on a big stage.”
The girls also finished second overall at their regional meet and had seven lifters qualify for the state meet.
Wilkerson is the regional director for girls powerlifting and he said he had a mixed reaction when the meets were delayed.
“I was one of 11 guys on the state level that puts on that state meet,” Wilkerson said. “I have to get things together and secure venues. I have to make sure people are safe. My reaction was cut in half because I was part of the decision that was made. I know it was the best interests of the student athletes, the parents and the coaches and their safety. I know we made the right decision.”
On the flip side of that reaction was his “extreme” disappointment in the postponement.
“For the girls, we have some high-ranking kids,” Wilkerson said. “They had chances to win or get into the top five or medal. That could have given us an opportunity to succeed as a team and get a team award. On the boys side, we have some guys that had chances to win or get a medal.
“It was very disappointing from the personal side of it. I know what they would have been capable of if they had a chance to compete.”
In the meantime, Gainesville is providing workouts to its athletes in case sports resume.
“One of my favorite quotes ever is if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” Wilkerson said. “If my powerlifters stay ready for the state meet, we don’t have to get ready. Our footballers, if they stay ready for the season, they don’t have to get ready. If they understand there is light at the end of the tunnel and if you work toward those possibilities, then you don’t have to get ready when you come back.”
Wilkerson said the district is using Google Classroom to distribute the workouts and he said its important for the athletes to be acknowledged for what they are doing.
“Our district uses Google Classroom to do assignments for traditional classes,” Wilkerson said. “I was thinking that if we’re already using that, that we put all the athletes into a class and communicate those workouts with them. There are posted workouts for them to complete and they’ll turn them back in like an assignment.”
Wilkerson has to be creative with his workouts. Some athletes have access to workout equipment and some don’t even have yards to run around in.
“I had to put together different body weight routines for those athletes,” Wilkerson said. “Every day a different workout pops up in the Google Classroom. One day it may be sprinting-oriented or one day it may be pushups or sit-ups to develop strength. One day it may be about stretching.”
Developing accountability and character are also hopes Wilkerson has for the athletes during this time.
“I know a ton of kids that are doing the workout, but may not be turning it in and that’s OK,” Wilkerson said. “They’re doing things to be active and I appreciate their work ethic on that. That’s kind of the theme of our offseason before we left which is developing character. So we put that little extra effort in to make it worth it.”
Wilkerson also hopes the athletes understand the need to enjoy sports while they have them.
“My goal is that they don’t let their fitness slide,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve heard many times coach [James] Polk talking about when it’s all taken away from you. I hope they have an appreciation of the sports they get to play and to live it to its fullest. Let’s be ready, attack it when it happens and get ready for the next year.”
All in all, Wilkerson said he is incredibly pleased with the athletes’ commitment.
“I will say that our athletes have really shown that they have the work ethic to be successful and it makes you feel good as a coach that we’re having an impact on the kids even though we’re not physically able to be there coaching them,” Wilkerson said.
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip